Category Archives: Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

Whether Rousseau or (as Hill 2005 shows) Rawls, Marx or Marcuse, Sinclair or Steinbeck, Habermas or Horkheimer, Fourier or Foucault; whether liberal or communitarian theorists, street activists or social scientists, mass movements or intellectuals, scholars or novelists or journalists — it is simply not true that the left can be characterized as yearning for “order” — i.e., the conscious direction of men (by men!). Rather, the left yearns for freedom and an end to the exploitation of man by man.

—    Jeffrey Friedman, “Popper, Weber, and Hayek: The Epistemology and Politics of Ignorance,” Critical Review 17, 1–2 (2005), pp. 39–40.

Quote of the Week

[T]he West cannot design a comprehensive reform for a poor country that creates benevolent laws and good institutions to make markets work. We have seen that the rules tat make markets work reflect a complex bottom-up search for social norms, networks of relationships, and formal laws and institutions that have the most payoff. To make things worse, these norms, networks, and institutions change in response to changed circumstances and their own past history. Political philosophers such as Burke, Popper, and Hayek had the key insight that his social interplay was so complex that top-down reform that tried to change all the rules at once could make things worse rather than better.

— William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden (Penguin: New York, 2006), p. 100.

Quote of the Week

First, attitudes toward particular taxes become important components of party ideologies. By their nature, government levies affect nearly all citizens, many of whom understand neither the distributive implications of tax issues nor where the parties stand. Their uncertainty encourages parties to simplify vital but arcane tax choices by developing general orientations toward revenue policy. Political parties, then, adopt ideological positions on tax policy that correspond to the impact of the tax on their partisans. When in office, parties whose supporters bear heavier tax burdens seek to cut assessments or to displace the revenue load onto taxes with more favorable distributive properties. Parties whose supporters bear lighter loads, on the other hand, seek to defend or raise the assessment.

— John Mark Hansen, “Taxation and the Political Economy of the Tariff,” International Organization 44, 4 (1990), p. 534.

Quote of the Week

To be sure, older individuals are certainly richer on average than younger ones. But the concentration of wealth is actually nearly as great within each age cohort as it is for the population as a whole. In other words, and contrary to a widespread belief, intergenerational warfare has not replaced class warfare.

— Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2014), pp. 245–246.

Quote of the Week

[P]olitical liberalism supposes that there are many conflicting reasonable comprehensive doctrines with their conceptions of the good, each compatible with the full rationality of human persons, so far as that can be ascertained with the resources of a political conception of justice.2 As noted before, this reasonable plurality of conflicting and incommensurable doctrines is seen as the characteristic work of practical reason over time under enduring free institutions. So the question the dominant tradition has tried to answer has no answer: no comprehensive doctrine is appropriate as a political conception for a constitutional regime.

— John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Colombia University Press, 1993), p. 135.

The footnote,

The point here is that while some would want to claim that given the full resources of philosophical reason, there is but one reasonable conception of the good, that cannot be shown by the resources of a reasonable political conception of justice.

Quote of the Week

If The Road [to Serfdom] was often misconstrued as a blast against the welfare state, it found readers in German-speaking Europe where its message was understood the other way around — as an insightful analysis of recent history and as a plea for a system, liberalism, that had never really been tried in Germany. In English, The Road was a conservative manifesto; in Germany, it turned out to be revolutionary. As a result, The Road‘s actual influence on German politics may have been more profound and lasting than it has been in the English-speaking world, a fact usually ignored by American Hayek scholars.

— François Godard, “The Road to Serfdom’s Economistic Worldview,” Critical Review 25, 3–4 (2013), pp. 378–379.

Quote of the Week

In 1952,…only 6.5 million Americans (4% of the U.S. population, or roughly 9.5% of households) owned any common stock — below the 1920s level of 15 to 20% of households and far below the 2007 figure of 49.1%. In 1952, approximately half (46%) of equity investors owned only one issue (ed. emphasis mine).

— Janice M. Traflet, A Nation of Small Shareholders (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 4–5.

Quote of the Week

On the difference between an accounting identity and a model,

[T]here is a crucial difference between this law [β = s(avings)/g(rowth)] and the law α = r × β, whch I called the first fundamental law of capitalism in Chapter 1. According to that law, the share of capital income in nationa income, α, is equal to the average rate of return on capital, r, times the capital/income ratio, β. It is important to realize that the law α = r × β is actually a pure accounting identity, valid at all times in all places, by construction. Indeed, one can view it as a definition of the share of capital in national income (or of the rate of return on capital, depending on which parameter is easiest to measure) rather than as a law. By contrast, the law β = s/g is the result of a dynamic process: it represents a state of equilibrium toward which an economy will tend if the savings rate is s and the growth rate g, but that equilibrium state is never perfectly realized in practice.

— Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 2014), pp. 168–169.

Quote of the Week

From a section on self-esteem,

…[I]f the number of dimensions is not unlimited and if great strides are made to eliminate differences, that as the number of differentiating dimensions shrinks, envy will become more severe. For with a small number of differentiating dimensions, many people will find they don’t well on any of them.

— Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), p. 245.

I also like the argument he makes about perfect equality along all, or given, dimensions. We feel good about ourselves when we compare our ability to that of others, and when we can see that our ability is high relative to others. But, if all of our abilities are equal, then we all feel equally frustrated at the fact we are just normal with respect to others. A better world is where the amount of dimensions approaches infinity, so that everyone can find a dimension along which they are superior.

Quote of the Week

The evolution of our monetary system over the last three millennia reflects a tension between two conflicting forces. One is the competitive search for lower-cost media of exchange; the other is the desire of the state to monopolize the supply of money. The tension between them became more acute with the emergence of banking. One the one hand, banking substantially reduced the cost of providing money; on the other, the state could not monopolize banking as effectively as it could monopolize coinage.

— David Glasner, Free Banking and Monetary Reform (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 44